8 Best Wood for Making a Longbow: The Ultimate Guide

So, you’re keen on crafting a longbow, your first bow, huh?

There’s nothing like taking a hunk of wood and turning it into something as sleek and lethal as a longbow, the making of your own bow.

To do that, you need to know your way around wood.

Not just any lumber will do.



Crafting a longbow calls for a select kind of wood, one that’ll give you the best of bounce, beauty, and backbone, the best bow wood.

From maple wood to yew, there’s a variety of wood types suitable for bow making.

But it ain’t just about the kind of wood. It also matters how the bow is crafted.

An oak bow, for instance, has a certain charm both in looks and performance.

But crafting an oak bow requires finesse, because if you get it wrong, you might end up with a piece of firewood instead of a longbow, not such a good idea.

With so many types to choose from, it can get a bit overwhelming, but fret not!

We’re about to break it down for you.

The Fundamental Qualities of a Good Bow Wood

Each tree species has its quirks.

Some, like maple, are just made for making archery bows.

Now, three key qualities separate regular timber from bow-worthy good wood: elasticity, beauty, and strength.

Elasticity and Stability

You’re going to want a wood that’s pliable.

When you draw a bow, it’s gotta flex, but it also needs to snap right back into place.

Keep in mind, stability is just as important as elasticity.

You wouldn’t want your bow to twist or warp with every draw, would you?

It’s like a tug of war between softness and rigidity, a delicate balance that ensures your bow bends but doesn’t break, producing a great bow.

Aesthetical Appeal

Now, let’s talk about beauty.

We ain’t being shallow here.

Look, a longbow is more than just a weapon or a tool; it’s an extension of the archer.

It should reflect the elegance and precision of the sport itself.

So, whether you’re going for the rustic charm of oak or the golden allure of yew, make sure your bow looks as good as it shoots.

Gimme a glossy finish over a rough patch any day!

Strength and Durability

Finally, we’ve got strength and durability.

Your bow’s got to have a backbone, the back of the bow has gotta be tough and for good reason.

It needs to withstand the tension of repeated draws and releases.

It’s not just about making it through one round, it’s about making it through hundreds.

So, whether it’s a traditional hickory bow or a more unique bamboo bow, you want wood that can take a beating and keep on shooting.

Diving into the Best Wood Types for Crafting Longbows

So you’re out there looking for the best wood for crafting longbows, right?

Better grab some popcorn, this journey’s gonna be something.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

1/ Osage Orange Wood

The first stop on our journey is Osage orange wood.

Some smart folks out there say Osage Orange is the top dog when it comes to your own longbow wood, its such a good choice.

Now that’s a bold claim, ain’t it? Scientifically known as Maclura pomifera, this North America native is often hailed as “man’s yew”.

Interesting, right?

Its tensile strength is off the charts, with an index of 11, make of that what you will.

Pros

Now, let’s dig into the benefits of this bad boy.

The first thing you need to know is that Osage Orange’s tensile strength is arguably the best.

And in the flat bows world, buddy, strength means a lot.

It’s like that robust linebacker who rules the field.

Its durability is another nifty feature.

Like your grandma’s age-old cast-iron skillet, it survives whatever you throw at it, that’s the good news.

Cons

But, hold on!

Everything comes with a price, and Orange Osage is no exception.

Although it’s the go-to choice for bow crafting, it’s not perfect.

The main drawback is that it ain’t easy to find.

Even when you manage to get your hands on some, it’s a bit tricky to work with, specially if you’re a beginner.

And then there’s the cost.

Chances are, you’ll have to shake your wallet a bit.

2/ Maple Wood

Ah, now we arrive at Maple wood.

Like that fancy classic car, there’s a devoted fan base who claim that maple wood is the best material for traditional bows.

It’s one of the strongest and best-looking wood species out there, also good at storing and dissipating potential energy.

Bow makers are fond of it for a number of reasons, including its strength, durability, and beauty.

A true triple threat!

Pros

Maple is a strong and durable wood that can withstand the high stresses of longbow shooting.

It is also a relatively dense wood, which gives it good mass and stability.

Maple is relatively easy to work with, making it a good choice for both experienced and new bowyers.

It is also a relatively affordable wood, making it a good option for those on a budget.

Cons

Maple is not as elastic as some other bow woods, such as yew or osage orange.

This means that it does not store as much energy, and it may not be as fast as a bow made from a more elastic wood.

Maple is also susceptible to ring checking, which is a type of crack that can form in the wood’s growth rings.

Ring checking can weaken the bow and make it more likely to fail.

3/ Hickory Wood

Now, folks, if you’re on the hunt for a bow wood that’s as reliable as a hound dog, hickory wood is your best bet.

This one’s got it all, the strength, the sturdiness, and it’s lighter than a feather.

Think about hickory wood like this, it’s the kind of wood you’d want if you’re always on the move.

Why, you ask?

It’s simple really.

Being light and strong, it’s like having a trusty sidekick that can take a beating and still come out swinging.

Pros

Hickory wood ain’t just all talk, it walks the walk too.

First off, it’s a might bit more available than say, your osage wood.

That means it doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Aside from being pocket-friendly, hickory wood can be a workhorse too.

Think of it like a drumstick.

It’s got the potential to let loose all that energy again and again, making it perfect for your longbow, hey it even makes a good recurve bow.

And get this, its lightness!

You can’t beat that.

It’s like packing a feather with the punch of a wrecking ball.

Cons

But before you go running down to the nearest wood store to get yourself some hickory, it’s good to know the flip side too.

While it’s no doubt a star player, it might need a bit of grooming if you want it to shine.

Hickory wood, bless its heart, isn’t the prettiest of the bunch.

You might have to treat it up a bit if you’re looking for it to catch some eyes.

And if you’re not a fan of hefty bows, hickory might not be your favorite.

While it’s strong, it isn’t as meaty as some folks might prefer.

But hey, you win some, you lose some, right?

4/ Yew: Pacific and European Varieties

The beloved Yew tree has created a significant mark in the history of bow-making, especially during those gritty medieval times in England.

Back then, the Yew tree was heavily harvested to the point where it wasn’t so common anymore.

To keep the yew bows production rolling, England started importing the European Yew from mainland Europe.

Pros

Both Pacific and European Yew have shown themselves to be quite the star performers in bow creation.

How so?

Well, they have what’s called a high “Bow Index”.

In short, it’s a measurement that points to how good a wood is for making bows – and both Yew types score over 11 which is pretty darn good.

Irrespective of the variety, Yew wood displays a combination of elasticity and durability, which are pretty key traits when you’re looking to shape a reliable traditional longbow.

This wood is also quite a head-turner due to its warm golden color and attractive grain patterns, making those wooden parts look downright handsome.

Cons

While Yew wood might be an excellent choice from a technical perspective, it does have a few thorns too.

One of the biggest issues is availability – European Yew, in particular, ain’t as common as it used to be due to serious over-harvesting in the past.

That might make it a bit harder, or pricier, to source.

And here’s a little safety heads-up – every part of the Yew tree is toxic.

That means you’ve got to be extra careful not to breathe in any fine wood dust when crafting your Yew bow.

Trust, you don’t wanna be dealing with that kind of headache – it’s best to keep a mask handy to keep them pesky particles at bay.

5/ Bamboo: A Unique Choice

We are going on an adventure for our next wood choice – bamboo, surprisingly enough, has been used in bow construction for a long, long time.

Yeah, you heard that right – bamboo isn’t even a tree, it’s grass.

Still, the likes of the traditional Korean gakung bow and the Japanese yumi have shown that bamboo packs a real punch when it comes to making bows.

Pros

First up, bamboo offers some significant advantages.

Its structure is made up of long fibers that run the entire length of the plant, providing a natural ‘grain’ that’s perfect for a strong bow.

It’s also surprisingly resilient, capable of withstanding a lot of pressure without breaking or losing its shape.

Not to mention it’s lightweight, making the pulling and releasing of the bow pretty easy on the arms.

And let’s not overlook how abundant bamboo is, especially as the best Australian wood.

That means it’s generally pretty easy and affordable to get your hands on some, compared to some rarer wood types out there.

Cons

Bamboo sure does have its downsides, let’s not turn a blind eye to that.

It isn’t exactly the best wood for bows because this dense hardwood has a tendency towards brittle failure, no matter how meticulous you are with the crafting process.

The thick growth ring can turn into a major disadvantage for a bow design.

These rings can sometimes act like cracks under stress, increasing the risk of the bow breaking under pressure, giving you an “Oh, snap” moment that ain’t the kind that has you updating your social media.

6/ European Ash Wood

Let’s talk about ash wood, folks.

It’s another variety of wood that’s been go-to for bow-making for ages.

This dense wood makes for a mighty strong bow, good enough for anyone looking to launch a few dozen arrows downrange.

But like anything else in life, it’s not all pros here.

Pros

The big attraction with ash wood is its hardness.

It’s one of the densest woods out there, which translates to serious power, especially when you’re putting that longbow into action.

Plus, it’s got a beautiful grain that gives it that classic, all-natural look.

Ash is also readily available in the northern hemisphere, making it a tad easier on the pocketbook than some of its other wood counterparts.

Cons

But hold on, before you go running off to the forest to gather some ash wood, let’s look at the dark side, too.

This dense wood is not really known for its flexibility, which is kind of a downer in the world of longbow crafting.

More flexibility equals greater arrow speed and less likelihood of the wood splintering.

So let’s just say, in comparison to some other different materials, it doesn’t exactly ace the “bend and snap” test.

7/ Elm Wood

Moving right along, let’s bring elm wood into the mix.

Elm is another one of those best wood for bows contenders.

This tree, a common sight across the northern hemisphere, is known for its strength and flexibility.

But, like everything else in life, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Pros

Elm is a strong and durable wood that can withstand the high stresses of longbow shooting.

It is also relatively dense woods, which gives it good mass and stability.

Elm is relatively easy to work with, making it a good choice for both experienced and novice bowyers.

It is also a quite affordable wood, making it a good option for those on a budget.

Cons

Elm is not as elastic as some other bow woods, such as yew or osage orange.

This means that it does not store as much energy, and it may not be as fast as a bow made from a more elastic wood.

Elm is also susceptible to splitting, especially if it is not dried properly.

Elm can also be difficult to find in large enough pieces to make a longbow.

8/ Juniper Wood

When we talk about bows and woods, the name of Juniper wood refuses to stay in the shadows.

Juniper wood makes a pretty fine bow – dense and small, just what you need!

Now, who doesn’t want a sturdy bow that can compete with the biggies?

Absolutely no one!

Plus it’s got a style to it – it’s like wearing a denim jacket in a suit party!

Pros

Firstly, Juniper wood is your best friend if you want a dense and snappy bow.

It’s small in size but does pack a punch – kind of like a bulldog.

You can bet your last dollar it’s going to give the bigger bows a run for their money, even the compound bows.

This wood, it’s a bit like a sports car – flashy and fast.

Cons

But wait, it’s not all sunshine and daisies.

The thing with Juniper wood, finding a good piece for your bow can get tricky.

It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but you know what they say, the best things in life never come easy.

Also, since it’s so dense, making a good bow, a better bow needs some finesse and design know-how.

It’s not your everyday wood project!

Bow Type: Making the Right Selection

When you’re planning to craft your own archery bows, the type of bow you decide to make is just as important as the type of wood selection for bow making.

Whether it’s an oak bow or a maple wood longbow, the choice of bow type will have a massive impact on the performance and aesthetics of the finished product.

The Long Bow

Let’s start off with the granddaddy of all bows:

The Long Bow.

This isn’t your average weekend next project.

Creating a long bow is a personal art demanding high quality wood, artisan skills, and just the right touch of hand tools.

But when you do get it right, you end up with a work of art that’’s as powerful as it is beautiful.

With a longbow, you got power, range and an old-school charm that can’t be beat.

Composite Bows

Moving along, we got ourselves the composite bows.

A composite bow ain’t your run-of-the-mill piece of kit—it’s a complex piece of engineering that brings together the best wood for bows, with modern materials, horn and sinew into something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

When crafted right, a composite bow gives you all the sweetness of an ultra-powerful toss, with the convenience of a compact frame.

It’s magic!

Detailed Examination of Bow Units and Calculations

Let’s take a moment to get into the science of the thing a bit.

The performance of a bow, be it oak or maple, all comes down to the wood’s bow index.

This nifty little number tells you how well a wood type will stand up to the job of being made into a longbow.

This is heavy stuff, but it’s worthwhile if you’re going for the apex of bow-making.

At the heart of it all we got two measures.

The first being the modulus of rupture.

This little guy is all about the breaking point of the longbow woods.

How much can it handle before it gives up the ghost?

That’s all in the modulus of rupture.

Let’s say you made a bow, and you’re drawin’ back the string follow.

You don’t want the bow to have a misfit and break; that’s where this measure comes in handy.

Then there’s the matter of “physical breaking”.

It sounds heavy, but it’s about understanding the point at which your bow wood will say “no more!” and break.

Not something you want happening in the middle of pulling back the ol’ string!

So, what we’ve got here is a bit of a science meets art kind of deal.

The key to a perfect bow is in the balance of these measures.

Too much of either and the thing’s as good as firewood.

But, find the right mix and you got yourself a bow that’ll serve you well, with a lifetime of bullseyes just waiting to be hit.

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t have high-quality right wood.

That’s where maple wood and oak come in.

These types ain’t just for show—they bring the ideal blend of elasticity, durability and beauty.

Just what the bow doctor ordered.

Finally, y’all gotta remember—making a bow is as much about the journey as it is about the finished product.

So, don’t be afraid to get a little dusty, make a few mistakes, and learn from the process.

After all, that’s how we make something truly special.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bow Woods

So, you got questions, huh?

That’s good, because a curious mind is a learning mind.

Seeing as we’re talking about bow woods,

I gathered a couple hot potato questions, and put together some answers.

Let’s make this less puzzling, shall we?

What type of wood makes the fastest bow?

Well, strap in because it’s a conclusive tie!

Not between two, but quite a few types of wood, actually.

Our contenders range from different wood species, each boasting its own unique attributes making them the ideal material for bow-making.

It ain’t like a horse race where speed is the only thing that matters.

Fast is great, but longevity and endurance ain’t too shabby either.

You don’t want your bow falling apart in the heat of the moment, do you?

So, which wood narrows it down?

We’ve got Osage orange, yew and hickory standing on the top tier.

And let me tell you, they’re neck and neck!

But if you’re more of a hardwood fan, maple and red oak wood are some of the best-looking hardwoods around.

They’re like the all-rounders of bow wood – durable, flexible and, yes, they got speed to boot.

Is a crossbow more powerful than a longbow?

Now, this ain’t an apples-to-apples comparison, is it?

It’d be like comparing a pickup truck to a sports car.

Both got four wheels, but they’re really built for different jobs.

When you ask if a crossbow is more powerful than a longbow, it’s not a straight yes or no.

Intricacies like shooting aids, distance and the application can tip the scale in either direction.

Off the shelf, without any bells and whistles, a modern crossbow typically packs more punch than a longbow.

But then again, a powerful hit doesn’t mean much if you can’t hit the broad side of a barn!

So, who wins?

Well, it’s a tie really.

Kind of like asking if a wrench is better than a hammer.

They both have their uses, and they both can do a serious job if you know what you’re doing.

Wrapping It Up: Choosing the Best Wood for Your Longbow

The selection of the right longbow wood can be a bit like picking out your favorite shirt from a closet full of options.

But let’s keep it simple, shall we?

If you’re looking to craft a traditional English longbow, yew is your go-to wood.

Yew trees grow steady and strong, making their wood highly suitable for making a bow.

Plus, it’s got that historical charm.

But don’t be thinking it’s just about the yew.

There’s a whole world of woods for bows out there.

Take Osage orange for instance.

This wood is is a great choice, the rockstar of longbow making.

It’s tough, it’s strong, and it’s stunning to boot.

Folks have been using it for making longbows way before guitar solos were even a thing.

When you think of maple wood, pancakes might jump to mind, but did you know it’s quite the suitable wood for longbow construction?

Heck, even woods that you might not expect to be robust enough, like the light and brittle bamboo from South America, can be crafted into a mean longbow.

And let’s not forget hickory, ash, and eastern red cedar – they ain’t no scrubs in the longbow world either.

However, black cherry bows, oak wood, and palm wood are often left out of the spotlight but they deserve some love too.

Though not as popular, they’re still fitting contenders to the longbow wood throne.

Even the infamous yellow birch can be used for making traditional bows.

Just remember, when choosing your wood, to factor in not just the strength or elasticity but also the properties of the wood when making your decision, take a closer look.

It’s a good practice to seal the ends of the wood to prevent cracking during the drying process, just as a cherry on top.

All in all, good luck, the choice of wood to craft your longbow can be as nuanced as a heavyweight boxing match or as simple as choosing your favorite ice cream flavor.

It’s all up to you and your bow-making dreams.

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